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Crapemyrtles have been described as the crown jewels of the southern landscape. Their glorious summer bloom, fall color, exfoliating bark, and elegant form truly make them a four season plant. Their long bloom season make Crapemyrtles a staple in summer plantings and their fall color ranges from gold to red depending on the specific cultivar.  Once the leaves fall, the exfoliating bark in mottled grey or brown features the elegant forms of the tree. The icing on the cake is how easy they are to grow. They thrive in the heat and sun and tolerate drought. In fact they don’t like a lot of water and they also require very little pruning.  With all the latest hybridizing, there is a size of Crapemyrtle for almost any landscape need from hanging baskets to an ornamental tree. When selecting a Crapemyrtle, think about the flower color and ultimate size first.  With so many cultivars to select from, it isn’t difficult to find the flower color you want in the size and shape that will fit your planting site, and since different cultivars bloom at different times you literally have blooms all season long!

How to care for your Crapemyrtles

Crapemyrtles are definitely sun worshippers. Even an hour of shade during the day can affect blooming. They adapt to poor soil and don’t need much fertilizer. A light application of 5-10-5 fertilizer is all that is needed. Crapemyrtles should be planted in spring, summer, or fall. They do not like to be planted in winter and may not survive. Recently installed plants should be given a thorough soaking at the time of planting and during dry periods for the first two seasons.   Too much water, cooler summers, and over fertilization promote vegetative growth at the expense of flowering.  In extreme drought conditions or cool, rainy summers, flowering can be delayed.If the correct size plant is chosen, Crapemyrtles require very little pruning. Treat them like any other ornamental tree.   Remove small twiggy branches inside the plant to promote good air circulation.  When shaping the plant, no branches should be trimmed that are larger than your little finger. Remove suckers that grow from the base of the trunk. If you are dealing with an older plant that has been neglected or improperly pruned, it may be best to consult a professional.  Remove any dead branches. The best time for pruning is mid February. Pruning in the fall or dead of winter can damage the plant. Spent flower heads can be removed right after flowering to encourage a second bloom, depending on the time of bloom. Crapemyrtles can be injured in bitterly cold winters. It is difficult to tell the extent of cold damage until growth begins. The practice of pollarding (crape murder) is not recommended because it causes weak sucker growth. These branches are too weak to hold the flower heads up and then bend towards the ground. Not to mention the ugliness of amputating the branch structure.The modern crapemyrtle is the perfect landscape plant for beginners and for low maintenance landscapes. If you have full sun areas you should have at least one of these magnificent plants. Try one this season. You will not be disappointed.

Rick Rice

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One thought on “Crapemyrtles”

  1. Hello,
    I love the look of the last photo of crape myrtles you show – the fall color in the vibrant oranges/yellows/reds. Which Crape Myrtle are those? I’m curious as I am about to buy some for my house and am debating between various hybrids. Would love to get some with that beautiful fall color!
    Thank you,
    Tiburon, California

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